Vashti Hardy launching her new book at Glebe Primary School
What is a Patron of Reading?
A Patron of Reading is a school's special children's author, poet, storyteller or illustrator. The school and their patron develop a relationship over a period of time. Everything the patron does is related to helping encourage and develop a reading for pleasure culture in the school: blogs, book recommendations, discussions, plays, book quizzes, poetry bashes, parent sessions, book trailers and school visits. The possibilities are virtually endless. Created by headteacher Tim Redgrave, the idea has now spread to over 200 schools across the British Isles (as well as to schools as far away as New Zealand and the USA!).
Poet and non-fiction writer James Carter has recently written his top tips for patrons and visiting authors, as well as shared some of his experiences in schools, which can be found here.
Chitra Soundar, patron at West Earlham Junior School
Can you give some specific examples of what a Patron of Reading might do?
Here are a few of the things the first Patron of Reading, Helena Pielichaty, did in her role as patron at Ysgol Esgob Morgan:
- Visited the school several times a year.
- Initiated the Summer Reading Challenge trophy.
- Sent a termly newsletter.
- Created a designated space on her website for staff, pupils and parents. This has allowed pupils and staff to maintain communications with Helena.
- Donated copies of her new books to the school library.
- Worked with a small group of Year Five pupils who lacked enthusiasm for reading. She consulted them about a short play she’d written and asked for feedback. Afterwards the boys were so keen they wanted to produce the play and held auditions for classmates.
- Visited the local public library to meet the children’s librarian there, Kara Orford, and sat in on a Chatterbooks session.
- Donated signed copies of books to the library from other authors such as Allan Ahlberg.
- Shared new ideas regarding reading, books and libraries, with the staff. For example, Rooted in Reading’s Reading Passports, the National Literacy Trust’s Premier League Reading Stars, the Reader Organisation and National Libraries Day.
- Participated in a family quiz which was all about her books. A fun way of familiarising everyone with her material!
- Added a guest comment to the school’s English policy
- Tweeted and blogged about her visits and the school to which pupils and staff responded.
- Recommended books about specific curriculum topics.
- Read books recommended to her by the staff and pupils.
Please note: The activities listed above are only examples. Other schools will have different activities planned with their patron. Each partnership between author and school will differ on the basis that every author and every school differs. However, the emphasis should be on encouraging reading for pleasure. If the emphasis during the author visits changes to that of writing, for example, the movement does not differ from the already established Adopt an Author scheme.
Huw Powell signing books after a 'Spacejackers' day at Writhlington School
What impact has this initiative had?
Tim Redgrave and staff reported it had:
- Sparked extra interest in reading generally throughout the school
- Provided teachers with an added dimension when encouraging reading for pleasure
- Given pupils an extra incentive to join in with schemes such as the Summer Reading Challenge. Between 2014-2018 the school had 100% participation- the first school to do so in England and Wales, according to the Reading Agency.
- Inspired parents and made them feel included, e.g by submitting comments on Helena’s blog and writing poetry with their children at home
- Boosted the quality of creative writing- even though Helena’s remit doesn’t include creative writing, the writing inspired after her first visit was described as 'phenomenal'
- Necessitated extending the school library as borrowing had increased well beyond expectation.
MIchael Rosen, patron at Earlsmead Primary School